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An adventure film is a film in which the protagonists are entangled in an eventful plot, sometimes with many changes of location. As a rule, the narrative strands are reduced to one level in order to make it easier for the viewer to identify with the main role. The focus is not on the development of the characters themselves, but on the events that cause this development. With motifs such as the hero's fight against evil or for the love of a woman, combined with often exotic locations, the adventure film appeals to the escapist needs of the viewer and, as a purely illusionary product, does not pursue the claim to be realistic.


Numerous sub-genres can be classified under the umbrella term adventure film , such as the pirate film ( The Red Corsair , The Pirate Bride , or Curse of the Caribbean ), the knight film ( Ivanhoe - The Black Knight , Robin Hood ), the coat-and-sword film ( Das Sign of Zorro , The Man in the Iron Mask ) or the antique or sandal film ( Ben Hur , Spartacus , Gladiator ).


The adventure film ties in with the tradition of the adventure novel as it was shaped by authors such as Walter Scott , Daniel Defoe and Alexandre Dumas . The works of Rafael Sabatini represent an important influence for the pirate film genre . Fictional characters such as Robin Hood or The Three Musketeers influenced the type of adventure film hero as a positive, energetic Swashbuckler ("saber rassler") who can defy social conventions, but ultimately is subject to a code of honor shaped by noble ideals.

Douglas Fairbanks played a variety of these hero characters in the 1920s, from D'Artagnan to Zorro . In talkies, Errol Flynn played this role type in films like Robin Hood, King of the Vagabonds . Other adventure heroes of the film included Tyrone Power ( The Pirate , 1943), Burt Lancaster ( The Red Corsair , 1952) and Stewart Granger ( Scaramouche, the gallant Marquis , 1952). Adventure films benefited from the introduction of color films, because the color of the decor, equipment and costumes increased their value as supporting elements of the exotic and fantasy.

French cinema adopted the hero type that was influenced by the USA and used its stars like Gérard Philipe ( Fanfan, der Hussar , 1952), Jean-Paul Belmondo ( Cartouche, der Bandit , 1961), Alain Delon and Jean Marais in adventure films that have become classic. However, the carelessness of the main characters was increasingly called into question. Anti-heroes such as Humphrey Bogart in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948) fail because of their thirst for adventure and trigger personal catastrophes through them.

The genre experienced a rebirth in the 1980s. After George Lucas successfully positioned an adventure film in the science fiction genre with Star Wars (1977) , Steven Spielberg mixed the nostalgic elements of the classic adventure film with set pieces of the modern action film in the Indiana Jones films .

While the first main characters were predominantly male, female protagonists have been just as common since the Lara Croft films.


  • Burckhardt Heer: The Adventure Film. An investigation. Federal Working Group for Youth Film Work and Media Education, Aachen 1981, ISBN 3-89017-000-5 .
  • Hans-Joachim Neumann: Adventure & Action in Literature, Film and Comics. Ullstein, Frankfurt / Main 1987, ISBN 3-548-36542-6 .
  • Georg Seeßlen : Adventure. History and mythology of the adventure film. Schüren, Marburg 1996, ISBN 3-89472-424-2 . (Extended new edition: Film Knowledge: Adventure. Basics of Popular Film. 2011, ISBN 978-3-89472-704-8 )
  • Bodo Traber, Hans J. Wulff (ed.): Film genres: adventure film. Reclam Universal-Bibliothek, Stuttgart 2004, (Series: Filmgenres, Vol. 4), ISBN 3-15-018404-5 .
  • Andrea Rennschmid: Skull and White Sails - Lexicon of the classic pirate film. Hardcover, Reinhard Weber Fachverlag für Filmliteratur, Landshut 2005, ISBN 3-9809390-0-6 .
  • Aleta-A. von Holzen: “A Pirates' Life For Me!” From “The Black Pirate” to “Pirates of the Caribbean” - adventure concepts in pirate films. SSI, Zurich 2007, ISBN 978-3-9521172-4-8 .

Web links

Wiktionary: Adventure film  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations